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Winning Colors, Last Filly to Win the Kentucky Derby, Euthanized 1985-2008

Winning Colors 1985-2008

On Sunday, February 17, racing lost one of its living legends when Winning Colors, the third and last filly to win the Kentucky Derby, was euthanized at the age of 23 at the Hagyard Davidson McGee veterinary clinic in Lexington, having developed complications from colic while in foal to Mr. Greeley. She was buried at Greentree Farm, a division of Gainesway, not far from where 1915 Derby winner Regret, the first filly to win, is also buried. The second, 1980 Genuine Risk, is the oldest living Derby winner, .retired to Newstead Farm in Virginia.

After winning both of her starts as a 2-year-old, the roan daughter of Caro defeated her class in the Santa Anita Oaks and then trounced males in the Santa Anita Derby by 7 1/2 length. In the 1988 Kentucky Derby, jockey Gary Stevens sent her to the front as was her usual style, and led every step of the way, holding off the late rally of Forty Niner by a neck for the hard-fought victory. It was the first Derby win for both Stevens and trainer D. Wayne Lukas. She completed the Triple Crown series with a third in the Preakness and then sixth in the Belmont.

That November, she returned to the scene of her greatest triumph for a showdown under the Twin Spires against the undefeated Phipps Stable homebred Personal Ensign. Over a muddy track, she once again led most of the way, but Personal Ensign ran her down in the final strides to take the Breeders' Cup Distaff in a photo finish. Lukas said, "If you look back through the history books, (that is) one of the great races of all time." She was the obvious choice for the Eclipse Award for champion 3-year-old filly of 1988.

As a four-year-old, she added the Turfway Stakes to her list of wins, and retired with 8 wins, 3 seconds, and 1 third in 19 starts, earning $1,526,837 for owner Eugene Klein. In 2000, she was elected to the National Museum of Racing Hall of Fame at Saratoga Springs. After her retirement, she was sold at auction for $4.1 million by Gainesway Bloodstock Holdings when Klein dispersed his thoroughbred holdings in 1989.

Unfortunately she was unable to produce a stakes winner out of her 7 foals out of 10 to start in a race, but her Mr. Prospector filly Golden Colors was second in the Daily Hai Queen Cup in Japan. Her last two foals are a dark bay juvenile filly by Orientate in training with Ron Stevens, and a chestnut yearling filly by Mr. Greeley.

Gainesway president Antony Beck said, "Winning Colors was always a champion. She had great physical prowess and athleticism. She was one of my father's favorite horses, and everyone at Gainesway is saddened by her passing."

Jeff Lukas, who was chief assistant to his father when Winning Colors raced, said, "She was always a big, tall, long-striding filly, an extremely well-structured individual. The thing about her was just controlling her. She was not the kind that would easily settle down. We had to keep her from doing too much, because she tried to put a lot into her training that wasn't necessary."



PHOTO: Winning Colors in the post parade for the 1988 Maskette Handicap.



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